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MEDICINE : Hospital to Shed Some Beds as It Grows : Facility will de-emphasize inpatient care in favor of outpatient services, whose demand has quadrupled.


Following a trend among hospitals around the region, Methodist Hospital of Southern California in Arcadia is planning a $32-million expansion that will actually reduce the number of beds by 30% and increase outpatient services instead.

The Patient Tower project, which is being financed through a combination of hospital reserves, bond sales and donations, will reduce the number of beds from 347 to 243, said Greg Bonn, a hospital vice president.

Because of advances in medical treatment and surgical techniques, the average number of days a patient needs to stay in the hospital has fallen dramatically, Bonn said, from an average of six days in 1990 to 5.4 days. As a result, many hospital beds go unused, costing hospitals the money to maintain them without the income from patients.

Of the 347 beds available at Methodist Hospital, only 190 were in use in mid-December.

"What we are encountering is a whole new era for hospitals," Bonn said.

In 1984 at Southern California hospitals, the average daily bed occupancy rate was about 65%, said David Langness, spokesman for the Hospital Council of Southern California. By this year, the rate had fallen to 48%.

At the same time, demand for outpatient services has increased 400%, Langness said.

"This is happening all over the region," he said. "Southern California is just full of these kinds of projects."

In the 1970s, hospital expansion meant more beds. Now, hospitals are working on their buildings, but with fewer beds.

Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena has a reconstruction plan that calls for 146 of the hospital's 604 beds to be eliminated, said Huntington spokesman Steve Willis.

In West Covina, Queen of the Valley Hospital and the Intercommunity Medical Center merged in May, giving the combined facility 525 beds. The two hospitals use 370 of the beds.

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